The Reformation was one of the greatest times of the historic Christian faith. For during this time we have a great awakening and return to God's Word as authority in all matters of faith in practice. The Reformation entailed many things but was largely built on what is referred to as the 5 "Solas".
Today, we take a look at Sola Fide which is translated "Faith alone" and is one of the hallmarks and cornerstones of the Christian faith. Faith alone is what sets Christianity apart from every other religion that has ever existed. Every other man made religion tells its followers that they must earn something or achieve some status. Christianity tells you that not only can you not earn salvation on your own but that you are not even capable of doing so (Rom. 8:7).
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 NASB)
Paul makes it clear in his letter to the Ephesians that salvation not only is not found in ourselves, for it is a gift of God's grace; but also that it is completely through faith. Paul reinforces the point by stating that this salvation is not only by faith alone, but is void of works (not as a result of works 2:9).
We are however saved for the purpose of doing the good works that our Savior Jesus Christ has prepared for us before we were even saved so that we will perform them and walk in them.
Works do not save, but salvation does produce works. A truly regenerate person will seek after God, and be daily sanctified in order to become more Christ like in their actions.
Elsewhere in Paul's letter to the Romans he addresses the issue at hand as well when he speaks of Abraham and his righteousness and how he came to obtain it.
What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For is Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness. (Romans 4:1-5 NASB)
In this passage Paul makes it clear that Abraham did not achieve his righteousness before God by works or by anything other than faith. Paul even says that if Abraham had of been justified by works then he would have had something to boast about before God in regards to his standing before God.
However, Paul points out that this is not what the Scripture actually says. The Scripture states that Abraham had righteousness credited to him due to his faith and not due to any works on his part.
After making this clear to the readers Paul then adds on an explanation concerning the subject. Paul says that for someone who works or performs a service then the wage or payment given to that person is a form of compensation or what is due for the job. It is owed to that person for the services rendered.
However, in contrast, to the one who does not work (who does not attempt to earn righteousness before God), to the one who realizes that they can't earn their righteousness but instead choose to believe in God, the One who is able to justify the undeserving sinner, their faith is credited to their account as righteousness.
This righteousness is something that God credits to our account based on the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ; not based on any righteousness found in us. Our works can not eradicate our sin, our simply existing is not enough to warrant justification, but our faith is wholly sufficient to have the righteousness of Christ credited to our account as if it were our own, even though it is not.
Sola Fide is a hallmark of the Christian faith because it is what separates us from every other religion. Our faith in Christ is what justifies us, not our works, not our heritage, not our physical line, nothing but faith in the One true God who took on human flesh and went to the cross to make the payment for our sin so that in faith we can be justified.
Due to our faith God not only forgives us of all of our sins, but treats us as if we never sinned because when He views us He sees our account as perfectly clean because of the righteousness of His Son that we gain through faith.